Thursday, July 29, 2010

We Walk Because We Must...

We walk because we must.  We are strong because the journey demands it.  Together in body and united in spirit, we lay down our footsteps for this generation and the next.  This is our promise:  a world without breast cancer.

This is a mantra, of sorts, amongst the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure walkers.  Screen-printed on t-shirts, printed on posters, recited in promotional videos.  These 40 words hit the nail on the head for me.  They so accurately describe this journey we walkers are on.  I've been wanting to write a post about my experience thus far for a while now, but the words just never came.  Until now.

When I first signed up for this walk, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  It was February, and September seemed so far away.  And $2,300 seemed easy to raise.  This year has flown by, and in 8 short weeks, I will be packing my bags to head to Seattle.

For those of you who don't know, the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure is just that; fifteen 3 day walks, each 60 miles.  Participants are required to raise $2,300 in order to participate.  Walkers train all year, logging hundreds of miles to prepare themselves to walk 20 miles a day.  A complete tent city is constructed in each location, filled with hundreds to thousands of pink tents, food stations, medical care, portable showers, and entertainment.  Cheering stations are set up along the path, with people showing up to cheer walkers on.  The walk concludes with all the walkers marching into a stadium filled with family, friends, supporters.  From what I'm told, its a very emotional and life-changing experience.

I decided that if I was going to participate, I wanted to go all-in.  So, I signed up to be a Training Walk Leader.  I didn't know anybody else who was walking this year; I was going solo.  When I first started leading training walks in April, I got to know a few people here and there.  I was kind of on my own team, hoping to recruit some people to join me.  What happened instead was I was recruited for a different team.

Now, there are about 15-25 of us who get together every Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine (or scorching heat!) to "lay down our footsteps."  We dress in pink, encourage each other, and explain our mission to anyone who asks.  We take pictures, make up cheers and songs and dances, and bond.  I think that is what I have come to love most about this.  The continual bonding between us walkers. We have men, women, husbands and wives.  At the beginning of each walk, we stretch, go over the route, apply sunscreen, Abolene, and Body Glide.  And w go around the circle, telling our name, how many years we've done the 3 Day, and why we walk.  People get as personal or impersonal as they want.  And often times, tears are shed.  We get to know our fellow walkers, and keep up with the progress of the people they are walking for.  We offer shoulders to cry on, hands to hold, and smiles to help heal broken hearts.

Sometimes, the walking gets tough.  It can be hot out, or pouring down rain.  We give up sleeping in on the weekends.  We also give up large chunks of time on our weekends.  Our feet hurt.  We get blisters.  Our legs get tired.  Our backs and hips hurt.  We get mosquito bites (maybe that's just me...).  And every time I find myself even starting to think, "This sucks.", I remind myself this:  This is so easy compared to having breast cancer.  I only have to walk 60 miles.  I'm healthy; I can do it.  I'm doing this for those who can't.  Raise $2,300 and walk 60 miles in 3 days?  No big deal.  I'll walk 60 miles each day of my life if it means  no one has to face a diagnosis of breast cancer again.  This doesn't suck.  This ROCKS!!!

Our team name is "Hello Cupcake", and we are #7 on the list of Top Ten Fundraising Teams.  So far, our team of 21 has raised $38,716.75.  Our goal for the year is $50,000 and I have absolute faith we will exceed that goal.  Here are some photos from our training walks:

 This is myself and sweet Tori.  She is such an amazing women!  Dedicated, strong, caring, H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S, and a truly great friend.  She is also a fellow TWL (Training Walk Leader).

 This is our poster that comes to every walk.  Each new walker signs his or her name, and who they are walking for.  This poster even took a dip in Capital Lake (on accident, of course). 

Just yesterday, I received an email letting me know that registration is already open for the 2011 Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure.  I haven't even completed my first walk yet, but you can be certain that I already signed up for next year.